The Lakes Trail offers a nice day hike along a volcano-created lake, or a gateway into the Mount Margaret Backcountry.
From the Coldwater Boat Launch, hop onto the trail skirting the northwest edge of Coldwater Lake. The narrow trail quickly climbs, and then plateaus, leveling out as it passes high above the lake. Grasses sway in the breeze here, and after just a half mile of hiking, encounter a junction, where a trail leads uphill. This heads to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, and is occasionally used by school groups on educational trips at Coldwater.
Continue straight on, passing a structure about a mile and a quarter from the trailhead that houses a composting toilet — a convenient surprise, and unusual for a hiking trail to have a toilet this far back. Take a break, if needed, and then continue on.
The trail weaves in and out of the forest recovering from the St. Helens blast. Mostly sticking to water's edge, round a point half a mile shy of the head of the lake. This is a nice spot to stop and enjoy the scenery before continuing on.
The trail continues past the head of the lake and further northeast along the tributaries that feed Coldwater Lake. Another 0.8 miles of hiking past the end of the lake brings you to a trail junction. This marks the point where the Lakes Trail splits.
To the right is the South Coldwater Trail, which crosses to the southeast side of the lake and loops back to a separate trailhead about a half mile down the road from the Coldwater Boat Launch.
To the left, the trail continues into the Mount Margaret Backcountry. Turn around at this junction for the 9-mile day hike. If you're planning on overnighting, be sure to have a pre-reserved permit from the Mount St. Helens Monument.
Note: Dogs are permitted on this trail on leash only. They must stay on the trail.